“Don’t sign on the dotted line without consulting your lawyer.” We have heard this advice oh so many times, for good reason, and it is no different when it comes to surrogacy. Contracts can be overwhelming and often times you just want to quicken the process. DON’T. It is crucial to read through every page of your contract verbatim with your legal counsel and understand what you are signing. We have a few tips from Moming About for reviewing your contract that may help.
Be Wary of Caps
Agencies, Lawyers, and/or Intended Parents might try and convince you that your only option is to agree to capped bed rest, wages, post-partum recovery, etc. You might be made to feel guilty for resisting caps or you might feel a sense of obligation to agree because of how costly surrogacy is for Intended Parents.
However, caps can leave you vulnerable. Pregnancies are unpredictable. Surrogates who have done SETs and are only carrying one baby have ended up on weeks or months of bed rest.
Think very long and hard about whether you’re willing to accept a cap of any kind. Some alternatives:
- A max weekly dollar amount, rather than an overall dollar cap or cap on the length of time you’ll be reimbursed.
- A cap that equals out to 48 weeks of full reimbursement for lost wages and necessary childcare/housekeeping (or whatever is applicable in your situation).
- That intended parents can request a second opinion from a doctor independent of the current situation.
Protect Yourself and Your Family
This might seem obvious, but don’t forget about yourself and your family. Make sure you have a good life insurance policy (IPs usually purchase an additional one for you) because death is a risk you’re facing as a surrogate.
For example, if your income is critical to your family’s well being then you can absolutely not afford to “skimp” on wage reimbursements (also see the previous point about caps).
Make sure you have an independent lawyer (separate from and not affiliated with your IPs lawyer) reviewing your contract with you and representing your best interests. You should be using an Assistive Reproductive Technology lawyer. You can find a list of ART lawyers here.
Be 100% Comfortable Prior to Signing
Don’t sign your contract until you’re happy/comfortable/satisfied with what it says. Every single time you get an amended contract back to you, read it again verbatim. Don’t just look at the areas where you requested and negotiated changes. Make sure there are no new clauses/requirements/etc. snuck in there while you weren’t looking.
Walk away if it feels wrong or fishy. Yes, it sucks that you’ve come this far and now have to “start over” but don’t compromise yourself. It will feel yucky, and you’ll regret it later.
Everything is Negotiable
Finally, you should remember that pretty much everything in your contract is negotiable. Both surrogates and IPs have asked for things that to other surrogates and IPs might sound off the wall. However, contracts are unique to each situation.
If you don’t like the way something sounds/reads or flat out don’t agree with something then have it changed, taken out, or otherwise negotiated. Nothing is set in stone, and don’t let an agency or lawyer tell you otherwise. If you don’t like it, refer to point #3.